Admissions officers will often emphasize that they don't care what you choose to write about in your essay. They stress this because most writers err on the side of unoriginality, having tried too hard to meet the expectations of their imagined readers and discarding all of their own personality in the process. Of course, there's truth in their advice: you should write with the goal of expressing your own values and conveying the qualities most important to you. You should frame this discussion in a way that highlights your unique character. But you must exercise your creativity with a definite eye toward the themes and points that will justify your suitability for medicine. Your ultimate goal is not just to stand out as a likeable person, but to obtain admission to a medical school.
In addition to the challenge of crafting a fresh take on standard ideas, you face the difficulty of integrating multiple, sophisticated themes into a single, coherent piece. The themes can be grouped into two basic categories: your motivation for becoming a doctor and the characteristics and abilities that qualify you for the profession.
Within these two themes we will make recommendations for more specific points and the various ways you can approach them. In addition, we will devote one section to tips on how to make your essay stand out by emphasizing the qualities that make you unique, even if they don't seem obviously related to medicine.
EssayEdge Extra: Importance of Uniqueness
"I tell candidates to make sure they tell us things that are of special interest about themselves in order to add a dimension to the application for the reader. Most importantly, they should explain characteristics and aspects of their background that make them unique. A common mistake that many applicants make is to assume that they will discuss what makes them special or unique at the interview rather than putting it in writing first. However, if they don't put it in writing first so the reader can know, they might not advance to the interview." —New York University School of Medicine
"[The essay] is, perhaps, the only opportunity that applicants will have for us to know about them personally in some way, prior to when interview decisions are made ... If statements are made about special skills or talents, they should be backed up with concrete evidence of academic work or extracurricular activities." —The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
The lesson here is that if you have unique qualities or special talents, you have to let them know. Don't assume your recommendations will cover that material, and don't wait until the uncertain interview stage to bring it up. You have to learn to be your own best promoter. That's why we have devoted an entire section to how you should recognize and capitalize on what will make you stand out.
Next: Why Medicine?